Best motorcycle chain cleaners

There’s more to cleaning a motorcycle chain than making it look pretty. Here are some excellent cleaners.

Cleaning a motorcycle chain with spray product

by Jim Blackstock |

Unless you own a belt or shaft-driven motorcycle, then chain cleaners and lubrication is part of your life, the same way that cleaning your bike is essential to keeping it not only looking good but working properly as well. But there are more reasons to keep your chain clean than just looking good. The dirtier it is, with more and more foreign material and road grime stuck to it, the higher the wear - to not only the chain itself but both drive sprockets as well.

How we chose these chain cleaners

The following list of products are chosen based on a combination of factors; our own experiences using the products themselves, tests carried out by sister titles such as RiDE or buyers reviews online from retail outlets including Amazon and Sportsbikeshop.

Scroll down for advice on chain care and what to look for choosing the right cleaner for you.

1. Muc-Off Chain Cleaner

Editor's Pick - We've tested this product and will be going back to buy with our own money


No list of motorcycle products is ever complete without something from Muc-Off and this

Muc-Off Chain Cleaner

2. Tru Tension Prime Shine Chain Cleaner


From the same company that devised the chain tensioning tool, this chain cleaner has been

Tru Tension Prime Shine Chain Cleaner

Tested by Justin Hayzelden for 18 months
Quality: 5/5, Value: 5/5

"The PrimeShine Cleaner’s nozzle puts out a powerful spray, which really helps to dislodge the dirt. I give it a liberal squirt along the lower run of the chain whilst spinning the rear wheel and by the time the chain’s travelled through one complete cycle most of the filth has gone - even when it’s been caked with winter road gunk. A quick wipe with a rag removes the excess and the remainder evaporates without a trace in a few minutes. It makes a great shed shelf companion to Tru-Tension's BananaSlip Chain Lube.

3. WD-40 Specialist Chain Cleaner


Forming part of the famous company's Specialist Motorbike range, this chain cleaner is good for O,

WD-40 Specialist Chain Cleaner

Just spray it on and either brush it or let it soak in, then a quick blast off again. It helps protect the chain afterwards though the company also recommends treatment with a chain lube too. It took a RiDE Recommended award in the same product test.

4. Motorex Chain Cleaner


This cleaner from Swiss lubricant specialist Motorex is good for all types of chain and has been

Motorex Chain Cleaner and Lube

5. Wurth Brake and Chain Cleaner


Keenly priced, this unassuming cleaner from Wurth gets great reviews at Sportsbikeshop, and with

Wurth Brake and Chain Cleaner

Reviewers seem to suggest you get two chain cleans from a 500ml can and at that price, it’s good value.

6. Motul Chain Clean


Designed for road and off-road machines, this cleaner from Motul removes encrusted dirt and dust,

Motul Chain Clean

You spray on and leave it to do its work, unless the chain is particularly filthy and you need to brush. It’s then ready for lubricating until its next clean.

7. Oxford Mint Chain Cleaner


This mint-scented cleaner from kit giant Oxford is designed to remove oil and dirt from the chain

Oxford Mint Chain Cleaner

It’s good for all types of chain – O, X and Z-ring and the mint scent will make the task of cleaning the chain just that little bit more pleasant. It also won RiDE’s chain cleaner product test, meaning it carries the recognised Best Buy triangle.

It’s compatible with all chain types and is water-soluble, so you spray it on, clean stubborn dirt with a brush and rinse it off.

8. Silkolene Chain Cleaner


The most expensive here but it comes in a very handy spray bottle with an accurate probe, so you

Silkolene Chain Cleaner

You spray on, allow it to soak in and do its work, agitate with a brush or cloth for stubborn dirt then let it dry and apply your lubricant.

9. XCP Professional Universal Parts Cleaner


While not specifically a chain cleaner, this universal parts cleaner from XCP is a solvent-based

XCP Professional Universal Parts Cleaner

There is no mention of using it on wheels or frames, though some reviewers say it works well – make your own judgement on that.

Why you should clean your chain

In the very worst-case scenario, the chain can break, leaving you stranded at the roadside or even causing an accident or injury. It’s not particularly common but I have seen it happen and it’s a long way to push a drive-less bike home. And if a chain wears and the tension becomes too loose, then it’s possible it can get stuck around a wheel sprocket. I’ve seen that too and it also is not something I’d want to have to deal with again.

Related: Top motorcycle rear wheel spinners

So, keep the chain clean. Ideally, clean it once a month if you’re using the bike reasonably frequently. This will get rid of all the old lubricant from it so that you can add new while also removing the build-up of dirt that will cause the wear we just talked about.

Never be tempted to clean a chain with anything other than proper chain cleaner; something harsher, like petrol, can eat into the seals that ensure oil is maintained within each link and protects from within and you can actually make things much worse. Just use a product designed for the task and you’ll be fine.

What to look for

There are several considerations when selecting your chain cleaner. The first is inevitably efficiency. This isn’t something that can easily be judged by looking at their spec and is where our testing – and that of sister titles such as RiDE (available through the Bikes Unlimited app), which tested chain cleaners in its January 2022 issue – are important.

Secondly, their composition. Historically, chain cleaners, like many other products used to clean motorcycles and cars, would have been based on the most effective (harshest) solvents available but these typically would not have been very pleasant to the environment. So nowadays, more and more products are biodegradable so that they minimise their lasting effect on the environment.

Coupled with this is whether they are solvent or water-based – if the latter, they can be rinsed off easily but the former may need multiple applications of the same product to achieve a good result – expensive and potentially harmful.

Also, the way in which they work is important; some are designed to be sprayed on and left while others require additional agitation. In fact, even the spray-on versions can benefit from some physical help on particularly dirty chains.

Types of chain

There are several types of chain and you need to make sure that the cleaner you choose is appropriate for all of them. The first is a basic roller chain used by older bikes. This has no inherent built-in lubricating qualities so requires frequent application of lube but is fairly uncommon nowadays.

The second is the very common O-ring style, where rubber O-rings retain lubricant within the links, helping minimise wear. X-ring chains are more expensive, as they are designed to minimise drag with smaller side plates and while they still use O-rings, tend to be used more on performance machines.

Z-ring chains are fundamentally X-ring links but designed asymmetrically to give certain characteristics to the chain, such as reducing whip.

How and when to clean your chain

Ideally you should be lubricating your chain every time you wash the bike or weekly, which is when most riders wash their bike, unless it’s being used in harsh winter conditions, when many will give it a blast after every ride if there is a lot of salt on the roads.

We’d recommend cleaning the chain monthly and checking the tension at the same time though if you use your bike a lot then perhaps more frequently – it depends on how you use it.

Start by soaking the chain with your product of choice. Depending on the instructions, we’d usually leave it to dwell for a few minutes before adding another application then cleaning the chain with a chain brush.

This helps loosen any stubborn dirt and a final application of the cleaner will help remove as much as possible. Then finish the process with a rinse (if water-based) before applying chain lube once the bike is dry.

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